By Jamie Leary

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Hospitals across Colorado are making special preparations as the number of serious coronavirus cases in the state continues to rise. On Monday, the Medical Center of Aurora was one of the first to open up a mobile triage center, just outside the entrance to its emergency room.

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Dr. Eric Hill, Chair of Emergency Services for the Medical Center of Aurora, says it’s one of many steps the hospital is taking.

Activity at the new triage center was slow Wednesday, which gave Hill a chance to show CBS4 how it operates.

“This is an alternate upfront process for us to rapidly evaluate patients with upper respiratory symptoms concerning for the COVID-19 infections and allows us to either do a rapid disposition outside — if they’re well enough to go home — or it allows us to (move) them into a different area of the triage within the ER; so we can separate out our patients here who are presenting for unrelated complaints; such as, knee pain or abdominal pain, from those who are actually sick with, fever and coughing,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

Hill says the past two weeks have been busy, but nothing like what health care workers around the state are preparing for.

“Our inpatient census volume for these types of patients is increasing every single day. So, at some point over the next couple of weeks, we anticipate hitting a saturation point where we’re full and at that point it kind of creates a backlog in the system,” said Hill.

Hill says while he would love to be able to test everyone, the triage center was only set up to evaluate people with coronavirus symptoms, it is not a testing site.

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A person will be tested if they are sick enough to be admitted.

“The ability to get tests back for outpatient testing is severely limited. There’s a significant log in the state lab as well as even labs that do outpatient testing like Quest and Labcorp,” said Hill.

Not only that, but Hill says there’s a significant shortage of things like swabs, which they need to run the tests.

While hospitals are working on in-house testing, Hill says there’s no timeline for when those tests will be available.

For now, his best advice is to stay home because the impact to the health care system could be great.

“I think the main thing for the public to know is one, staying at home really does help this process. If you can stay home and isolate yourself you will help prevent the spread of the infection,” he said. “Even though most of the people that get the infection will be fine, unfortunately many people will not and that’s going to lead to a kind of a potential collapse of the health care system if everyone shows up all at one time.”

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Jamie Leary


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